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The Basics Of Making A
Documentary
7 Key Steps | How To Make Your Film


The basics of making a documentary all comes down to getting from point A (where you are now) to point B (having a finished film).  Are you ready for the journey?

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Basics of Making a Documentary

  1. Decide on a story idea you’re passionate about.

  2. Create a production outline and figure out who you're going to interview and what you're going to film.

  3. Raise money.

  4. Grab your video camera and production gear and start shooting!

  5. Transcribe your footage and write a script.

  6. Edit your footage, add some music and (if needed) narration.

  7. Submit your documentary to film festivals and figure out a distribution plan.


THE CREATIVE PROCESS

Understanding the basics of making a documentary becomes easier once you understand how the creative process works. 

Vision

First, you need to have a vision for your project.

You should ask yourself questions such as:

  • What will this documentary look like when it's finished? What's the storytelling style? (Ken Burns, MTV, etc)

  • How will people feel when they watch this documentary? (horrified? inspired? happy? All the above?)

One you have a vision for your project, then you begin the step-by-step process of bringing your vision to life. 


Filmmaking Gear

At the top of the list is getting the necessary equipment such as camcorders and computers. Even if you're shooting nothing new (for example using free film clipsbuying stock footage or using existing photos from your own collection), at the very least, you'll need a video editing computer and video editing software.

If you will in fact be shooting new footage, of course you'll need a camcorder. There is no perfect choice here. Use what you can afford and what makes sense for your project. Read this article for guidance:
Making Documentaries | What Camera Should I Buy? 


Production Elements

Once you have the necessary equipment, now's the time to figure out the specific pieces of media or production elements you'll need to tell your story. Interviews? Archival footage? Music? Photos?

A lot of filmmakers will first figure out who they want to interview - the people who can best tell the story - and then they piece segments of those interviews together and place images over the voices. This is a very common technique in documentary filmmaking. 


Video Editing

Once you've gathered all the pieces together and uploaded them to your video editing system, now's the time to start weaving together your story in a way that will keep the audience intrigued and guessing "what's next?" This is where you really let those create juices start flowing! Go here for tips on editing your documentary.

So those are a few basics for making a documentary. 

Hungry for more?  Check out our exclusive 7-Day Crash Course "Learn How To Make A Documentary."



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